Russia: The World Cup begins with concerns about homophobia, racism, and violence
The World Cup could mean many bans and restrictions for Russian people themselves which the authorities hope will increase security for the more than one million football fans from all over the world coming to Moscow. Some media outlets and foreign authorities are warning visitors against possible World Cup pitfalls.
"Homophobia, racism, and violence" the British newspaper The Times reported as being some of those pitfalls. The President of FIFA, Gianni Infantino, recently calmed fears by saying Russia is "100 % prepared" for the event and that fans need fear nothing as a beautiful experience was in store for them.
Russians have experience with convening similar events such as the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014. Football, however, will be played on a much greater scale, not just in Sochi, but in another 10 cities: Moscow, St Petersburg, Kazan, Nizhni Novgorod, Saransk, Samara, Rostov, Volgograd, Kaliningrad and Yekaterinburg.
A "special security regime" can be anticipated in all those locations, including closed zones where not even a mouse could slip through, the deployment of special forces and hidden "smart instruments", and technological networks for discovering explosives and weapons, according the Government-controlled media outlet Rossiyskaya Gazeta. People can count on there being especially strict security controls on public transportation and near stadiums, with more thorough police registration of visitors to the various cities and with traffic jams.
Buses not equipped with the Russian navigation system GLONASS, which provides information about the vehicle in which it is used to the security forces, may be forbidden to drive into the "football" cities. Near the Luzhniki and Spartak stadiums on the days of matches sailing will be banned on the Moscow River.
The sale of alcohol, especially in glass, may also be banned in some locations, along with the sale of weapons of all kinds. "Special supervision" is meant to be applied to light aircraft and trucks.
"These are all customary measures. The main thing is to avert any possible terrorist attacks or deaths," the Government-controlled daily emphasized.
"We anticipate that our collaboration with foreign secret services and security agencies will aid us, just as well as it has in previous years, with protecting this event from terrorist attacks," declared the head of the Russian secret service, the FSB, Alexander Bortnikov. "Last year in Russia we averted 25 terrorist assaults and four were committed."
One of those attacks was the suicide bomber assassination that cost the lives of 16 people in the metro in St Petersburg. "Arranging for the security of this kind of enterprise by means of our own forces is impossible. It is customary practice that all special services always collaborate on such cases," admitted the head of the Inter-ministerial Security Staff for the World Cup, Alexei Lavrishchev.
According to him, 105 representatives of 35 countries have already joined the security collaboration and their numbers continue to grow. "It is possible we will close our eyes to small stuff, but serious misconduct will be strictly punished," he warned.
According to the newspaper Moskovskiy Komsomolets, the security precautions are intended not just for fans celebrating victories or consoling themselves in the streets after the sorrow of defeat, but also for taxi drivers or the providers of accommodations - those who overcharge risk being accused of fraud. Something similar happened during the Moscow Olympics of 1980, when the regime was more afraid not of terrorist assaults but of "anti-Soviet rumors", and so removed "parasites, alcoholics, street prostitutes, recidivists and illegal immigrants" from the capital during the Olympics, recalled the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, according to which tens of thousands of people were impacted, to say nothing of the schoolchildren sent away to camp and the students set away to perform voluntary labor.
All of the godfathers involved with the criminal underworld in those days reportedly were also thoroughly warned that the Olympic summer should happen without muggings or robberies. Today there is a ban on concerts, demonstrations, or any other public assemblies, and Russian media are speculating as to whether the Government will take advantage of the moment when all attention is fixed on the football pitches to announce that it is increasing the retirement age.
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